Black Lives Matter Movement Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

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Demonstrators march through Downtown Oakland on Aug. 26, 2020 to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

While the movement marks the United States as its birthplace, it was nominated for the much-vaunted prize by Norwegian member of Parliament Petter Eide.

“I recognize Black Lives Matter as a very important global movement,” Eide said on a phone call with KQED, “and I think that what they are working for is extremely important in many countries.”

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Black Lives Matter, the hashtag-turned-movement-turned-global network was co-founded by Bay Area native Alicia Garza in collaboration with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Since its founding following the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the movement has inspired groups and protests worldwide, most recently in the wake of George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police. The summer of 2020 saw Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Hong Kong, Dakar, Berlin and other cities around the world. In some places, like Bristol, England, protesters toppled racist statues as well.

Since the announcement and an article in The Guardian, Eide says he's been receiving angry calls and "quite nasty" emails from Americans who disagree with the nomination because they say the movement has been violent. But Eide emphasizes that based on studies, more than 93% of demonstrations have involved no serious harm to people or property, according to a report tracking political violence in the United States.

Eide, who previously worked for Amnesty International before becoming a Norwegian MP, sees BLM as a human rights issue. “We in Amnesty, in the human rights movement, we are very concerned about basic human rights,” Eide said. He says he sees BLM as having a direct connection to bringing and maintaining peace.

Eide says BLM has been able to take the conversation on justice to the next level. “I believe that they have been able to raise a new consciousness and awareness on racial injustice,” he said. “They have spread that message throughout the world like no one else has been able to.”

The Nobel Committee twice awarded the prize to the anti-apartheid movement as well as Martin Luther King Jr., showing a commitment to social movements, Eide noted.

“There is a tradition in the Nobel Peace Committee to see the linkage between racism and a campaign for racial justice," he said, and to see "justice as a prerequisite for peace.” For Eide, the nomination of BLM carries forward a legacy from the civil rights movement in the U.S., as well as the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

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When asked about a previous nomination of former President Donald Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize, Eide said, “This nomination on Black Lives Matter is not a comment to domestic American politics.” Other Nobel Peace Prize nominations include the World Health Organization and Greta Thunberg. The Norwegian Nobel Committee keeps nominations secret for 50 years, though nominators themselves can reveal who they have chosen.

KQED reached out to Alicia Garza for comment on the nomination but did not hear a response before publication.

For local activists and advocates the nomination is a welcome acknowledgment — yet further emphasizes the need for action.

“I hope it gets clear recognition that this has been the work of mainly Black women and Black queer women who have lifted up so many movements,” said Nathan Mizell, a third-year student at UC Berkeley and a member of Berkeley's Police Review Commission. He sees the nomination as a positive development.

Mizell would like the nomination to inspire “action, action, action” to support Black lives.

Even with the award, Mizell said it’s “important to evaluate the underlying conditions” that precipitated it. “Why in the first place, do we needed a whole movement to just awaken the world to the realities of what Black people face?” Mizell asked.

After nominations, which must be submitted by Feb. 1, the committee creates a short list and does an assessment alongside Norwegian or international experts.

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received the award in the name of the civil rights movement. Most recently, in 2020, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to  The World Food Programme "for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced in October. Prize recipients are awarded roughly $1 million.